“If you’re alive, you’re a creative person.” – Elizabeth Gilbert, Big Magic
Creativity is a skill that anyone can learn with hard work and perseverance. Gone are the days when we can hide behind the excuse that we aren’t a “creative type.” In today’s fast-paced society, we must be able to keep up with ever-changing trends and advancing technology. We must tap into our creativity to produce new ideas and accomplish tasks more efficiently. Regardless of your career path, creativity is an essential piece in the success of your future in business and in life. Whether you are a typical “creative” producing works of art / design, a salesman closing a deal or a stay-at-home mom making dinosaurs out of Play-Doh, the ability to create is a necessary skill.
If you are like most people, there are a million outside factors that can interrupt your creative process. If you are always finding yourself staring at your computer screen, fingers hovered over the keyboard with a mind full of distractions, here are a few ways to spark your creativity.
1. Set the stage.
Creativity needs to be nurtured in the right environment. One person’s preferred creative environment may be different than someone else’s. As a mom of two small children, any quiet space where I can be alone with my thoughts (paired with a cup of strong, black coffee) is essential for my creative juices to flow. Some people may like the background noise of a café or library, while others require the comforts of their own home to produce their best work. Snacking, sipping on a hot beverage or wearing your favorite pair of sweatpants may also be the key to the best creative environment for you.
2. Get up and move.
Sometimes to foster creativity and fresh thinking, you simply must get up and move. A study by Stanford University confirms that walking improves your creativity. “Walking meetings” have become a tradition in the Silicon Valley, home to some of the most successful entrepreneurs in the country (think the late Steve Jobs of Apple and Mark Zuckerberg of Facebook). Exercise is good for the brain and for the body. Some of your best thinking can be done on the move because it eliminates certain distractions and breaks down formalities, allowing your mind to think more freely.
3. Doodle away.
Hidden in the depths of my basement are still remnants of my college notebooks littered with the doodles of my youth. Especially helpful to the visual learner, doodling is a great way to sharpen your creative skills. It helps you stay focused and keeps your mind from drifting while you are listening or sitting in a meeting. It can also be a way to organize your thoughts and visualize an idea. If too many screens are overstimulating your brain, it might be time to go old-school and whip out the pencil and paper and do some doodling.
4. Go on an adventure.
Sometimes the same old routine day in and day out can clog up your creative process. Go out and have an adventure, or at least a change of scenery to stimulate your mind with new experiences, new sights, new sounds and new activities. Being outside is especially inspiring for the creative mind. Observe your surroundings and the people you encounter to embrace fresh ways of thinking that may differ from your standard approach.
5. Turn up the tunes.
Hubspot has 6 different playlists for “improving your productivity.” Listening to music increases the dopamine in your brain, which can help you channel your focus on the task at hand. Music can also put you in a better mood, and calm your nerves if you’re feeling anxious. Several studies have shown that background music increases productivity, which in turn can help you in your quest to be more creative and develop new ideas.
6. Phone a friend.
Bouncing an idea off a friend or colleague can help you sift through your pile of potential creations and proceed with a winner. Another way to practice your creativity is to take a class in something you’ve always wanted to learn – a different language, making pottery or learning a new instrument are all ways to develop your creative mind. Attending a class in a communal setting also holds you accountable to complete your creative task.
7. Write it down.
When in doubt, write it down. To truly land on a good idea, you will probably have to go through a lot of bad ones. I recommend a daily “free write” to jot down or type any and all ideas that come into your head – free of judgement, free of rules. Unlike a blog or an article, free writing is for your eyes only, a way to spew forth all the crazy thoughts you may be too embarrassed to share with someone else. Occasionally, you may find a gold nugget of an idea. Not sure where to start with your free-writing? Try signing up for resources like Twords or Daily Page that send you prompts and reminders to write each day.
Becky Martin is a freelance writer and "boy-mom" to Charlie and Lucas. When she's not writing or taking care of her little ones, she can be found binging on coffee, Netflix and young adult fiction. She and her husband reside in the bustling suburbs of Philadelphia.